Time Bomb or Damp Squib? Fertility in Contemporary Northern Ireland
McGregor, P. & McKee, P. (2011) British Society for Population Studies Annual Conference, University of York, UK, 7 - 9 September 2011 [NILS]
Northern Ireland has been and continues to be deeply divided on the basis of religion. There is considerable interestgenerated by the publication of the decennial census: broadly speaking it is assumed that voting patterns will directly reflect religious affiliation. Formerly higher Catholic fertility was offset by higher migration but this was against a background of a trend decline in fertility. This paper examines and compares contemporary fertility in the two communities. The model employed uses the notion of identity as developed by Akerlof and Kranton (2000). In this case fertility is a weighted average of that prescribed by the social group and that determined by standard neoclassical considerations. The data are drawn from the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study. A logit analysis of births in the period 1997 – 2007 is performed and the marginal effects of religion and the proportion of Catholics in an area are computed at the individual level. Interpretation is facilitated by graphing the results against age, time and the socio-economic characteristics of the locality. The key identity variable for Catholics is their proportion in the locality concerned. This acts as a reinforcement mechanism of identity but is largely absent on the Protestant side. Although the latter's sense of identity is as strong as Catholics, it does not have a demographic dimension. The residential segregation in Northern Ireland has meant that demographic change within the two communities is distinct though subject to a similar economic environment. This makes simple extrapolation of current trends unreliable.